Florence of Arabia

Florence of Arabia

by Christopher Buckley


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The bestselling author who made mincemeat of political correctness in Thank You for Smoking, conspiracy theories in Little Green Men, and Presidential indiscretions No Way to Treat a First Lady now takes on the hottest topic in the entire world–Arab-American relations–in a blistering comic novel sure to offend the few it doesn’t delight.

Appalled by the punishment of her rebellious friend Nazrah, youngest and most petulant wife of Prince Bawad of Wasabia, Florence Farfarletti decides to draw a line in the sand. As Deputy to the deputy assistant secretary for Near East Affairs, Florence invents a far-reaching, wide-ranging plan for female emancipation in that part of the world.

The U.S. government, of course, tells her to forget it. Publicly, that is. Privately, she’s enlisted in a top-secret mission to impose equal rights for the sexes on the small emirate of Matar (pronounced “Mutter”), the “Switzerland of the Persian Gulf.” Her crack team: a CIA killer, a snappy PR man, and a brilliant but frustrated gay bureaucrat. Her weapon: TV shows.

The lineup on TV Matar includes A Thousand and One Mornings, a daytime talk show that features self-defense tips to be used against boyfriends during Ramadan; an addictive soap opera featuring strangely familiar members of the Matar royal family; and a sitcom about an inept but ruthless squad of religious police, pitched as “Friends from Hell.”

The result: the first deadly car bombs in the country since 1936, a fatwa against the station’s entire staff, a struggle for control of the kingdom, and, of course, interference from the French. And that’s only the beginning.

A merciless dismantling of both American ineptitude and Arabic intolerance, Florence of Arabia is Christopher Buckley’s funniest and most serious novel yet, a biting satire of how U.S. good intentions can cause the Shiite to hit the fan.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780812972269
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/13/2005
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 555,888
Product dimensions: 5.21(w) x 7.99(h) x 0.58(d)

About the Author

Christopher Buckley is a novelist, essayist, humorist, critic, magazine editor, and memoirist. His books have been translated into sixteen foreign languages. He worked as a merchant seaman and White House speechwriter. He has written for many newspapers and magazines and has lectured in more than seventy cities around the world. He was awarded the Thurber Prize for American Humor and the Washington Irving Medal for Literary Excellence.

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Excerpted from "Florence of Arabia"
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Copyright © 2005 Christopher Buckley.
Excerpted by permission of Random House Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Florence of Arabia 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'Florence of Arabia' is really a serious book. It's written as a farce and has its hilarious moments. The pages dealing with the colonic difficulties of Shem the Royal Camel had me laughing out loud. But there is nothing funny about stoning and beating women to death. Imprisoning a woman in a cell with the corpse of her 'supposed' dead lover isn't amusing either. The entire plot is grim and frightening. I read a short biography of Fern Holland on whose tragic life and death this book is loosely based. Buckley's intention is to bring the ineptitude of the United States, the greed of the French, and the entire Middle Eastern medieval mentality to our attention and keep us amused in the process. And I WAS amused, but I didn't like it that I was. If you can follow that. 'Florence' is worth the reading.
bookworm1228 More than 1 year ago
In many ways, I think Florence of Arabia has some interesting things to say about the relationship between the United States and the Middle East. I admire Christopher Buckley for being brave enough to laugh at both sides pretty mercilessly, as well as for creating a number of likeable and human characters (as well as some distinctly less likeable ones). At the same time, there were points in the book that were a bit shallow. For example, I'm not sure exactly why every female main character had to be ravishingly beautiful. It seemed like they had enough going for them without constantly commenting on their gorgeous looks. There were also moments where the plot took some pretty fantastical turns. I'm still trying to decide if this was necessary for the book to stay slightly light-hearted (the subject matter gets pretty hefty by the middle) or if it was a bit much. Overall though, the book was definitely not a waste of my time, and I would probably recommend it to people who are not overly invested in the Middle East conflicts and don't get offended easily.
nvata2d More than 1 year ago
Christopher Buckley fans will not be disappointed with this funny take on changing paradigms in fictional middle eastern countries. Not only is this book relevant to the customs of (most) Middle East locales I've visited but the ideas Buckley visits on how the United States wants/tries to sabotage their ideals and way of thinking is downright hilarious! This book is funny and amazingly action-packed. If you like Christopher Buckley, Florence of Arabia is a must-read!
rnbeckytNYC More than 1 year ago
I adore Christopher Buckley's books. Florence of Arabia is his best; a side-splitting, laugh-out-loud book about a US plot to subvert a Middle Eastern regime using an Oprah-like TV personality.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Saudis, the UN, and even the publishers of the DaVinci Code are fair game in this story about an American female who starts a 'TV for women' in the middle east. I know of no author writing funnier political satire with the same wit and edge as Buckley.
iftyzaidi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Well its Christopher Buckley so one can expect some eviscerating satire and plenty of laughs (though I didn't think it was anywhere near as funny as [Little Green Men].) The subject matter looks interesting and is initially. Florence Farfarletti of the State department is outraged after the youngest wife of Prince Bawad, the ambassador of Wasabia flees from her home and pleads for asylum from the U.S. government. Wishing to avoid an international incident the government hands her back to the Prince and she meets a grisly end back in Wasabia. Charged with indignation, Florence puts together a plan to try and influence the Middle east and bring about social and cultural change that will improve the plight of the region's women. Her plan is rejected and she is booted out of the state department but then a mysterious stranger from an unnamed secret agency shows up at her doorstep and offers her the resources to put her plan into action. She moves to the Arabian emirate of Matar and sets up a Television station which starts beaming religiously subversive and empowering programming which immediately has an impact on the region. Outraged, the Wasabians start plotting with the French (looking for oil contracts and a naval base in Matar) to bring down the government of Matar and impose Wasabian-style fundamentalist laws on that country too. Needless to say this was not part of Florence's plans.The fundamentalist-blighted land of Wasabia is obviously an analogue of Saudi Arabia and Matar seems to be a combination of Qatar and Bahrain. The tale is leavened with humour but also grisly and shocking scenes. The story itself at times shows signs of sophistication in terms of understanding the region and international politics but at other times it feels as if the author is putting forward ideas and plot twists that have more to do with conforming to the average American reader's sensibilities circa 2004 than trying to provide an insight into the actual political situation in the region.In 2012 the Arab Spring has shown that the idea that it takes American intervention to bring about social change in the region seems a little quaint. Events in Bahrain over the last couple of years suggest that it is not the French who are willing to back a despotic monarchy against its population's demands for social change in order to secure oil supplies and a naval base but the United States (after all that's where the U.S. Fifth Fleet is based in the region's largest naval facility, which is currently being expanded in preparation for any upcoming confrontation with Iran.) In the book Wasabia sends its armed forces into Matar to squelch the troublesome demands for women's equality and the TV channel which is inspiring them. The move was eerily reflected last year when the Saudis sent in their armed forces last year to help put down pro-democracy protesters and in current announcements of a Saudi-Bahraini union.Lastly the idea that a U.S. funded TV channel will be the harbinger of a social revolution was probably inspired by the real-life decision by the Bush government to fund an Arabic-language television channel. The problem is that Al Hurra television which has been on air since 2004 and receives $100 million a year from the U.S. government has very little credibility in the region and certainly much less than Al Jazeera, Al Arabiyya or various other news and entertainment channels. Its programming has not even been that revolutionary and has actually been criticized at times by progressives for featuring programming that projects fundamentalist or sectarian views and even Holocaust denial.So I'm knocking a star off the book's rating for misrepresenting geopolitical and social realities. That doesn't mean however that the book is not worth reading. It is entertaining and the story is a compelling and amusing one if you can just make peace with its fantastical elements.
MitchWagner on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Quite good -- not Buckley's best, but quite good. It's a comedy-thriller about Florence, a low-level US State Department bureaucrat who gets ticked off when an Arab woman she befriends comes to a bad end from her husband, and decides to launch a feminist revolution in the Middle East, by starting a women's TV channel that teaches women how to stand up to men.
Capfox on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another fast and fun read from Buckley. This one has the same style and panache as the others, and so if you liked them, you'll like this, too. It's not his best work, but it's not his worst, and besides, his ceiling is quite high, anyway.In this one, a State Department official proposes that the best way to achieve lasting stability in the Middle East is to emancipate the women there, and starts a TV network catering to changing women's views of the world. It turns out to be successful, and things spiral wildly out of control in interesting ways. I won't detail the plot, but it certainly goes in directions I didn't expect, and was very enjoyable.Stylistically, I think it works very well, although there were a couple of loose ends around, but they didn't occur to me until I was writing this, so it wasn't that bad at all. It's a fun read, on a topic you don't normally find in the satire sections (at least, done well), so if you like the political satire genre, I'd say go for it.
Griff on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Florence of Arabia by Christopher Buckley. Suggested by a colleague, especially after my Qatar experiences. Matar not quite Qatar, but it is an outrageous view of the chaos that is the Middle East. Humorous to read this, but more sobering to put it in the context of Saddam's execution (and everything, absolutely everything, that surrounds it - within Iraq and beyond).
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a big fan of his other work...but it seems as if he wrote this book too quickly and tried to make it as ridiculous as possible...its silly and simple...unlike most of his other work...I really can't recommend it...